Frances González is recognized as one of the leaders in the women’s entrepreneurs movement in Cannabis. With more than 15 years of experience in corporate telecommunications, operations and international relations in 2015 she decided to launch her own business in Puerto Rico as founder and executive director of Millennia Solutions, a provider of digital communication tools and solutions for business. Months later medical cannabis is legalized on the island and she pursues further education with subject matter experts. Through her educational journey, Frances launched Latinas Cannapreneurs, a non profit organization based in Puerto Rico with a mission to inspire, educate and elevate the latino community about the culture and industry of cannabis through education, activism and entrepreneurship. Through our network of partners and collaborators we provide educational tools and support to break down stigmas while promoting inclusiveness in the growing green age. Frances was also invited to speak on Cannabis entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico in May 2019 for Canna Ciencia 2019 in Bogota, Colombia, which is the largest cannabis conference in Latin America. She also took the stage to speak last September in CanEX 2019 in Jamaica where she shared the stage yet again with personalities like Steve DeAngelo and Vicente Fox. She attended and presented in Cannabis Salud 2019 in Mexico, and in December she was a featured speaker at the National Women of Cannabis conference in Las Vegas. Her companies are sponsors for all these conferences and also sponsored the Women in Cannabis Study. Frances is also a member and Chair of the Caribbean Policy research of the Minority Cannabis Business Association whose mission is to support equality and diversity in the cannabis industry through policy, empowerment, and connection.
She hosted the Minority Cannabis Business Association’s first event in Puerto Rico and also collaborated as co-host and sponsor of Women Grow’s first pop up event in the Island. Frances is influencing and opening the way for the next generation of Latinas Cannabis Entrepreneurs.
With all of those accomplishments, it is a pleasure to introduce you to Frances González.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Why Cannabis?
Frances González=FG: I didn’t expect this plant to be in my path at any moment of my life. I always heard that it was a drug, that it will end your future, you can go to jail, and we needed to stay away. My eyes were opened when I decided to try cannabis for the first time at the age of 22. Once I experienced and learned about cannabis, that it’s a plant. A plant that was saving lives, was curing people. It was a plant that was revitalizing economies and yet it was a plant that has been demonized for many years and it is still branded as a Schedule I Substance “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. That’s when I decided to focus my attention and my energy into educating myself and others about cannabis, Because like me, there were many others who viewed and deemed cannabis as a malign drug.
WB: What was your path to the plant?
FG: At first, I thought my interest was purely recreational. I just had a puff with friends when we were hanging out, but I started to notice subtle changes. My mood would improve. It made me calmer, more patient and empathetic towards the experiences we go through in life. That’s when I realized my use was not recreational. Like any other person, I was looking for quality of life. In that search, in 2015 I decided to change my corporate job with a multinational telecommunications company and went full in, on becoming an entrepreneur by launching Millennia Solutions, a digital communications solutions company. Apparently the universe aligned in my favor and a couple of months after opening my business, the former governor of Puerto Rico, through a controversial executive order, announced the development of a medical cannabis program. So my interest in the plant grew alongside this new medical industry on the island. I wanted to educate myself and find out the benefits and impact this plant can have in our community, government and economy.
In 2017 the Medical Cannabis Program was passed into law and I became a medical cannabis patient to treat my insomnia, one of the medical conditions included at that time. Now there are 25 conditions included in the medical cannabis program by the Department of Health. The list includes:
5.Cancer and Cancer chemotherapy treatment
7.Anxiety Disorders, as defined in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
8.Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Positive Disorders
9.Degenerative diseases such as: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Multiple/ Inflammatory Bowel Disease/Sclerosis
10.Incurable and advanced diseases requiring palliative care
16. Spinal Cord Injuries
18. Peripheral Neuropathies
20. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)
21. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
22. Bipolar Disorder
23. Any other condition that causes cachexia
24. Chronic pain
25. Severe nausea or persistent muscle spasms or as recommended by the Medical Advisory Board and expressed by the Board through Administrative Determination.
WB: Who were you with when you first got high?
FG: My first experience with cannabis was at 22 years old. Raised in a religious and conservative household, where smoking and drinking were frowned upon, I armed myself with valor and decided to try weed with 3 other friends. We were going on a road trip through the island with friends who were very avid consumers. Although I’ve never partook on the consumption before, I agreed on this trip to try it with them since I felt I was in the safest, comfortable and trustworthy company a gal could ever hoped to have her first sesh. We stayed at a hotel and went to a secluded part. They were setting up for their usual ritual of toking and watching videos. I remember they had a metal one-shotter that looked like a cigarette which blended in with our cigarette smoking friends. I remember taking a toke and having one of the longest laughter attacks in my life.
WB: Do you remember what you were listening to?
FG: My friends had this ritual of toking and watching something, whether a movie, a documentary, or funny videos. This time I decided to partake, we were watching YouTube videos, specifically funny bloopers recorded on live TV. I remember we were watching a video of what it looks like a home shopping infomercial in which they were selling some sort of home ladder which you could change into different shapes. The person who is demoing was setting up the ladder. While he was locking into place the ladder made a weird noise. The person who is presenting besides the demo guy asked him, “are you sure that’s fine? As he replies “Yes It’s now locked in place!” while he’s doing the demo on live television, the ladder gave in, and he just dropped from the screen while the presenter could not stop laughing. It was silly yet so unexpected, that up to this day, I remember the video and just bursting out laughing.
WB: Please tell me about your company?
FG: After working in a multinational telecommunications company for more than 10 years, my options at that time were to continue to move up the corporate ladder in the States, or open my own business in Puerto Rico. With more than 15 years of experience in corporate telecommunications, operations and international relations in 2015 I decided to launch my own business in Puerto Rico as founder and executive director of Millennia Solutions, a provider of digital communication tools and solutions for business. Months later medical cannabis is legalized on the island and I pursue further education with subject matter experts.
Through my educational journey, in 2017 I launch Latinas Cannapreneurs, a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire, educate and elevate the Latino community about cannabis by highlighting education, activism and entrepreneurship of women and latinas in the industry in order to break down stigmas, foster empowerment and inclusiveness in this new green era. Through our allies and strategic partnerships, the organization provides education, tools, consulting and mentoring to women who have a passion for creating a positive impact in the industry. We’ve also recently launched the Latinas Cannapreneurs Scholarship Fund, an investment fund to provide scholarships to women who are passionate about entrepreneurship in the cannabis industry. This fund covers the costs of required courses up to the licensing process.
What do you do which is different, therefore better than your competition?
As the latest U.S. Census data of 2018, Hispanics accounted for 18% of the U.S. population, which is around 59 million people. The Hispanic growth rate over 2000 to 2007 was 28.7% about four times the rate of the nation’s total population growth (at 7.2%). Latin America makes up 8% of the world population, which counts for about 653 million people.
We are a rapidly growing demographic which has been left with very limited trusted resources
to not only learn about cannabis and its impact but more importantly how we as a community, can be part of an industry in our native language, Spanish. That’s where Latinas Cannaprenenures comes in as a resource to inspire, educate and elevate our community by supporting the next generation of latinas cannabis entrepreneurs.
What are your 6 & 12 month goals?
For the past year I had the opportunity to travel to different cannabis conventions in Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. as a speaker, educating about the growth and evolvement of the cannabis industry in Puerto Rico and the women in Latin America who are breaking stigmas through cannabis entrepreneurship. It was an enriching and educational experience learning how even with all our cultural differences, cannabis unites us. Yet, women, especially Latinas, were still majorly underrepresented. I quickly learned that it was due to the lack of accessibility to information, support and funding. With that in mind, our 6 to 12 months goals are to launch an international membership for Latinas Cannapreneurs with the goal of establishing a Latinas Cannapreneurs Scholarship Fund in each of our chapters, so we can provide women who want to get into the industry with the education, resources and mentorship needed, so they become industry leaders in their country.
WB:Do you have a mentor?
FG: Growing up as a Navy brat I had the opportunity to travel to different countries and learned to befriend and welcome change from a very young age. This gave me the opportunity to have many mentors that inspired me throughout my journey. Mentors who taught the good, and sometimes the not so good traits in which to aspire. I can say the first mentors who inspired me to become the person I am today were the strong women in my family. From my grandma getting a college degree at the age of 50. My other grandma ran a bodega(grocery store) and balancing a big household, to my mom taking me to her college night classes when I was 5 years old. They all inspired me to always strive for my goals and to never give up regardless of all the obstacles I may stumble across in life which has taught me that everything we experience in life, the good, the bad and the worst, all have a purpose in our life’s journey.
WB: What about stigmas?
FG: In 2016, I took one of the fist cannabis policy courses the island had available at that time. When I told my deeply religious family that I was taking a course to get into the cannabis industry, their initial reaction was, You are not going to start selling weed are you? I explained that I was taking the required courses so that my company, Millennia Solutions can provide services to the industry. I’m sure at that time they had their reservations, but they were never against it. I always say actions speak louder than words and my actions have educated them, and they have seen first hand the many benefits of cannabis. How have things changed in Puerto Rico with regard to cannabis? (When I used to sail yachts from there in the 80’s cannabis was not at all legal. Your boat could be seized or worse!)
Puerto Rico has legalized cannabis medicinally since 2015 when an executive order was signed by the former Governor. Garcia Padilla. In 2017 ex-governor Ricardo Antonio Rosselló signed in into law. Since then Puerto Rico has grown into a Cannabis powerhouse with over 80 dispensaries all around the island and more than 100,000 registered patients in the medical cannabis program. Puerto Rico is expected to capitalize when the recreational market opens on the island.
WB: Do you cook
FG: Although big family meals were the norm growing up, personally cooking has always been an intimidating task. Those ginormous cooking pots, I know as “calderos” in which pounds and pounds of “arroz con habichuelas” rice with beans have been cooked for hours to perfection was such an unfathomable task which only abuelas, with their many years of experience, knew how to handle. Eventually I learned to cook, mostly local puerto rican dishes, such as different types of rice, in normal size pots. I can feed a family of four. More than that, and I would have to call for take out!
WB: Who taught you?
FG: Like in most families, family reunions and food go hand in hand. My grandma was the cook of the house. She also had a small bodega on the island where she cooked all her famous alcapurrias & rellenos de carne to sell. My grandpa had a farm full of different vegetables. I remember going to the farm to pick buckets of gandules( beans) to take home and the whole family set around the bucket picking the grains. Every saturday grandma used to cook the biggest dinners in the biggest most intimidating calderos (pots) I’ve ever seen, because she knew that that was the day all family from all over the island came to visit and of course we all had to eat. The strong women in my family were the ones who taught me how to cook, even though they all thought I would never learn.
WB:Do you have a food memory you’d like to share?
FG: Recently I had the most amazing cannabis infused meal by a local chef who’s been infusing his passion for cooking and cannabis for years. All the dishes were caribbean themed. It started with coquito, a traditional coconut drink, similar to eggnog, we usually have during the holidays. Mangu, a dominican style mashed plantains with “ensalada de pulpo” octopus salad and “cerdo frito” fried pork. And for dessert,“ flan de vainilla” custard pie. It was the first time I was experiencing our authentic caribbean cuisine with a cannabis twist, and slept like a baby!
WB: Favorite (pre-covid19) restaurant, where?
FG: I’m more of a chinchorreo than a restaurant type of gal. Chinchorro is a local Puerto Rican tradition, where a group of people go to a small unassuming bar, usually outdoors, where everyone hangs out very casually to eat, drink, dance and have fun with family and friends. I miss those chinchorros with the family, when we all drove in caravans to the coast of the island, stopping from place to place trying their signature cocktails and trying the local dishes like alcapurrias, empanadillas, relleno de papa, bacalaitos and others types of entrées from the vast caribbean gastronomy of Puerto Rico.